Exams regulator Ofqual have revealed their plan for a new grading system of GCSEs and A-levels, following the cancellation of exams this summer.

Due to school closures happening in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, it was announced that many students would not be sitting their GCSE and A-level exams as standard this year.

Instead, Ofqual has revealed students will have their grades awarded by a combination of teacher assessment, class rank and the past performance of their schools. The regulator has laid out a new system that will affect more than a million students across the UK, including those taking vocational and technical qualifications in schools and colleges.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers and school leaders for making this process work for students during these very challenging times.

Sally CollierChief Regulator at Ofqual

Wales’ government and regulators are expected to announce a similar system shortly.

Schools will be asked to recommend a grade for each student in each subject, before then ‘rank ordering’ each candidate within that grade.

Ofqual will then use a newly developed model to determine each student’s final grade, which takes into account the students’ year groups’ prior attainments, results of the school or college in recent years and the national expected outcomes across all students in England.

Schools and exam boards have been asked to provide a “fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely grade a student would have achieved if they had sat their exams this summer”. The assessment will be kept confidential and will not be shared with students.

If they are not happy with their grades, students have a right to appeal and can sit the exams in the next academic year, from September onwards.

Ofqual system regarded as ‘fair’

Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies group, said: “Clearly we would have wanted the examination season this summer to continue as planned.

“However, that is not possible as we have a duty first and foremost to ensure the wellbeing and safety of pupils, families and staff, including saving lives.”

Mr. Patel said he welcomed Ofqual’s new system as a fair and minimally bureaucratic way to address the current issue. However, he went on to raise his concerns about pupils who may be taking their GCSEs a year early.

“In the longer term, I look forward to taking part in the consultation process around whether year 10 pupils who have completed GCSEs in some subjects already and would have taken exams this summer like those in year 11, will need to study those subjects again next academic year.

Pupil with calculator

“I would like those year 10 students to be awarded with a grade this summer so they do not have to study the same content again. Otherwise they will not be able to study new subjects that they are planning to, and schools will need to recruit many more teachers.”

General secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Paul Whitman said: “Of course this is not a seamless solution. Students have been expecting to go through a very different process. However, their grades will now be determined by professionals who know them best: professionals who are well-equipped to make these judgements, and we hope that gives students confidence that they are in safe hands.

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, assured schools that the grades students receive this summer will have equal status with universities, colleges and employers, to “help you move forward with your lives as planned”.

She said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers and school leaders for making this process work for students during these very challenging times.”

“It will be extremely important for employers, universities and other places of work and study to play their part in supporting this year’s alternative arrangements, so that students can have confidence that their hard work will be judged correctly and valued in the same way as in previous and future years.”